First-person shooters have come a long way since their inception. Officially kicking off with Wolf 3D, the genre has evolved into a lot of different variants at present. On its evolution, many a sub-genre was founded. One of the more obscure genres includes “space shooters”. In these games, the player takes to the skies (and beyond – to space) in a ship, and fight other AI enemies and/or human opponents. I have played quite a few of these “space shooters” growing up. Sadly, they did not age well and were lost in the well of time. One game tries to resurrect the universe – pretty hard actually. Subdivision Infinity is humanity’s last chance to get their beloved space shooters back, or they may be gone forever.
Story and Narrative
The game sets you in the feet of Rebel-1, a gritty pilot who knows his work well – how to extract maximum benefit with the minimum efforts possible. You start modestly, investigating how space pirates are attacking a sector for resources which do not have aftermarket value. Your attempts eventually unearth a galaxy-wide scheme which Headquarters wasn’t aware of, leading you to take charge of the situation and try to defuse it. The story tries a lot but fails to put in enough interest for people playing it. The game’s repetitive mechanics make the characters and their words even less memorable.
The game takes place through missions, which you need to complete to progress while upgrading your ship with better weapons and gadgetry. After completion of a small number of missions, you can progress to a new area (or map) where you get to do the same thing all over again till the story’s done and dusted. There are optional exploration missions which allow you to explore the map at will, but there isn’t anything extra to do other than destroy some stuff, get some materials and money and use it to upgrade your gear and spaceship.
Gameplay and Mechanics
Before I actually dive into the mechanics, let’s get into the history of the genre a bit (according to what I have played, at least). I have played quite a few space shooters in my lifetime, though I remember three very prominently. Space Invaders was what I started this genre with, which goes way back to when “fake” consoles flooded the market as cheaper alternatives to Nintendo’s and Atari’s products. Space Invaders was much less about combat and much more about fighting static AI opponents moving in a defined fashion. Despite that, as the first game for the genre, it was definitely a memorable experience. There was another game which involved combat between spacecraft (sadly I can’t really recall the name, I only can recall the fact that I played and liked it). You basically played through the single-player defeating various kinds of spacecraft which were then unlocked for multiplayer. The last, and possibly the game which I most vividly recall, is Tachyon. It’s the game that resembles Subdivision the most, according to recent memory.
Tachyon was a space combat game ahead of its time, allowing small open worlds in space. You could park your spacecraft in a variety of constructions in space, fuel up, go for upgrades and even buy stuff on the go. Combat was still the primary focus of the game, requiring you to face off against hordes of enemy spacecraft. The game’s design was ahead of its time. Of course, Star Citizen promises to be that, and much more, but its state of development after its launch on Kickstarter casts aspersions whenever one decides to pick it up and play (not to forget that you need to shill out enormous amounts to buy ships or “virtual land” on servers). Of course, Star Citizen’s popularity is from its promised features, which are quite ambitious. The point for typing this whole para being that this whole “space shooter” thing performs rather poorly in the current age without other features to complement it. This is exactly the problem with Subdivision Infinity. For a modern game, it feels pretty bare-bones.
Subdivision Infinity puts you into the feet of a space pilot and a set of predefined objectives which are to be completed. Objectives are rather repetitive, making you move to points, kill random enemies or pick stuff up. That’s it. Every mission makes you complete a bunch of these objectives – and you’re done before you can feel it. Rinse and repeat till you have completed all missions for a particular “map”, so that you can move to another section of the galaxy. That’s it. There’s nothing else to it.
The game allows spaceship customization so that you can be better armed for future missions. You upgrade weapons by buying them when you’re docked after the completion of a mission and before the start of another mission. There’s some crafting too, allowing you to craft spaceships with materials you picked up on your missions. Some of these weapons and spaceships are level-bound, requiring you to level up by completing objectives. Materials mostly come from destroying enemies in space, and that’s the mission that would be popping up most of the time, so it’s pretty easy to collect a good amount of stuff easily.
One thing where the game does a bit of justice is in the enemies. Enemies you need to kill are quite varied, ranging from drones to large cruisers. Different enemies have a different approach to killing you, with some enemies being bigger and requiring more hits to be destroyed to some being easily destroyed in a few hits of a charged blast from your weapons or a missile. Enemies actually try to kill you instead of roaming around aimlessly.
Sounds and Dialogue
The game’s dialogue is another feature that manages to lighten the mood. The narration isn’t that bad, though it does little to cut through the monotony of the mechanics in general. There’s no sound acting for the voices though, which is strangely unnerving.
The game’s sound effects in terms of weapon effects, explosions, as well as collisions and sounds from the engines in space, are pretty good. Combine that with the music of the levels, and you actually get a pretty aesthetic space adventure game without the “adventure”.
Graphics and Performance
Subdivision’s graphics are pretty decent. From decently modeled spaceships to actual space stations and satellites – the game actually has pretty decent visuals. Quite some work seemed to have gone also into the weapons and stuff because even those look pretty good. Sadly, some attention should have gone to improving the mechanics of the game too, so that the game does not feel as monotonous as it does.
The game did not have any noticeable bugs or crashes and ran fluently without any framerate dips.
Subdivision Infinity tries pretty hard to re-invent the wheel but fails miserably at it. Sometimes, it is not possible to re-invent or bring back genres from the past, especially when they haven’t aged well. Even if you were a fan of the “space shooters” back in the day, the advice is to look elsewhere – this certainly isn’t the game you were looking for.